Phoenix Garbage Studies
- In 1988, the city of Phoenix commissioned a study from Dr.
Bill Rathje of the University of Arizona to perform a detailed analysis of
the solid waste generated by Phoenix residents. One of the most important
conclusions the study determined was that over 50 percent by weight and over 63
percent by volume of typical residential garbage was recyclable. This
information was the base upon which the recycling program was designed. The goal
is to divert as much garbage as possible from the solid waste stream headed to
- In 2003, the city of Phoenix commissioned Cascadia Consulting Group, Inc. to
conduct a follow-up Waste Characterization Study to see how the composition of the
solid waste stream had changed in Phoenix over the previous 15 years. This
information gave insight into what other materials could be diverted from solid
waste headed to landfills. An interesting conclusion of this study was the large
percentage of paper, especially newspaper, that was still found in garbage
containers and not recycling barrels.
How much do we throw away?
More than one million tons of solid waste is taken to the city’s SR85 Landfill
each year. Approximately half is from residences and the other half from
commercial entities like schools, apartments, factories, stores and offices. This total tonnage does not reflect material taken to privately owned landfills
or by other cities in the metro Phoenix area. This total amount and volume of
material could fill Chase Field top to bottom at least seven times each year. It
also is equal to about one ton of garbage per resident per year (or 28 full
garbage curbside containers per year). The recycling program has had the effect
of extending the capacity of city landfills by diverting almost 120,000 tons of
recyclables each year. These materials have a great number of high volume/low
weight items including plastic bottles, cardboard boxes and aluminum cans.